“And he preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.’” -Mark 1:7
I’m a big boy. I can untie my own shoes. I would venture to say that many of my able-bodied friends can achieve the same feat, pun intended. I have never thought to myself, “Self, you should really do so-and-so a favor and untie his shoes for him. That would really show how much you appreciate him.” To me, it seems like an outlandish and even frivolous display of service.
That’s what made this statement from John the Baptist so striking to me. John, who was prophesied as a messenger to come before Christ, says that he isn’t worthy of doing an act of service that I wouldn’t even think of doing anyways.
It would have been one thing if John said he wasn’t worthy to bring him a glass of water or give him a birthday card. (Would you even give Jesus a birthday card or just a Christmas card? These questions keep me up at night.) That would make a strong statement to me that I am not worthy of serving Jesus.
John goes a step further. He introduces this act of service that doesn’t seem to have any cultural relevance today. One is coming who is so great that you are unworthy of serving in this manner that is so low and unnecessary that you wouldn’t even think of doing it anyways. That’s how great Jesus is.
I can see where this point would hit home with the people of the time. In that day, the infrastructure wasn’t quite on par with the standard we have set in the great nation of America. Roads were not paved. They were dirt.
Consequently, while folks roamed the streets in their sandals, their feet got pretty gross. Foot washing was a lowly act of service that we read of later in the Gospels, so we have some concept of how profound John’s statement is and can relate to what the people were thinking. John says he doesn’t deserve to touch the nasty, worn out sandals of a homeless man who just so happens to have created the universe.
It takes minimal observation for me to see the stark contrast between John the Baptist’s perspective of Christ and mine. While John realizes he has no business removing his sandals, I often find myself acting as if Jesus should be removing mine. Entitlement is rampant today, and I’m not exempt. I could go on about the many ways I fall short and glorify myself, but the overarching point John is making is that this is not about me. Further discussion of Robert Bember would counterproductive. John’s point is that Jesus is unfathomably great.
The Savior we serve is so great that we don’t deserve to serve him on our best day. His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom. His weakness is greater than our strength. However, the one whom we have no business offering even the most lowly, insignificant act of service offered the ultimate act of service to those same unworthy people, laying down his life, buying us back to him, enabling us to serve him for Eternity.